The slow death of the death penalty

As we publish our latest death penalty report, looking at executions and sentences around the world during 2010, it is clear that countries using the death penalty are now increasingly isolated. Read on to find out how you can help quicken the death of capital punishment.

Celebrating progress…

When we first began campaigning on the death penalty in 1977, it had been abolished by just 16 countries. Yet over the decades, as countries have learned about the realities of the death penalty – its ineffectiveness in deterring crime, its incompatibility with human rights – they have turned against it.

Today 139 countries have abolished this cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment in law or practice, a remarkable achievement. Moreover:

  • Whilst 67 countries handed down sentences in 2010, only 23 countries actually carried out executions – just over a third.
  • The number of official executions reported fell from at least 714 people in 2009 to at least 527 in 2010, excluding China.
  • We have also seen fresh steps towards abolition in countries including Belarus and Mongolia.

Right now, our friends at Amnesty Mongolia are doing all they can to persuade politicians and the public to back a bill aimed at ending the use of the death penalty there.

Battling setbacks…

Despite this progress and momentum, use of the death penalty remains deeply entrenched in a handful of countries, and it continues to be imposed with blatant disregard for international law. Death sentences are being handed down for offences that do not meet the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’ and often after unfair trials.

In Iran, for instance, our research shows an alarming upsurge in executions for acts such as drug trafficking or vaguely worded charges relating to national security.

And another reminder why we do it…

Amnesty will always oppose the death penalty. We oppose it regardless of the crime, the offender, or the method used by the state to kill.

As the US State of Illinois recently concluded, the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated as long as justice systems remain fallible. Illinois has now become the 16th US state to say no to the death penalty. We’ll keep campaigning for more individuals, states and nations to do the same, until we can finally declare it dead.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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